The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday unveiled the new format of the presidential debate scheduled on April 3.
In a press briefing, poll body spokesperson James Jimenez said the event will have a total of four segments.
“Previously, we asked one general question per segment which all of the candidates answered. For the upcoming debate, there will be one general question that will be posted for all the candidates to answer, and this will happen at the start of the debate. For each succeeding segment, the candidates will be divided into groups of three where each group will be given one question to debate on,” the poll body official added.
He explained that in total, there will be three questions for each succeeding segment.
Each candidate will be given 120 seconds to answer the questions and another 30 seconds for a rebuttal.
“Groups of threes will change with each segment. Each group will be randomly pre-determined via a drawing of lots which will happen two hours before the debate or at 5 p.m.,” he added.
All candidates will be given 60 seconds each to deliver their closing statements.
Asked who among the 10 presidential bets have confirmed their attendance, James said “all of them except one”.
Only nine of the 10 candidates running for the highest seat in the land attended the first Presidential Debates last March 19 held at the Sofitel Harbor Tent in Pasay City.
The attendees were Dr. Jose Montemayor Jr., businessman Faisal Mangondato, Senator Panfilo Lacson, labor leader Leody de Guzman, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, Vice President Leni Robredo, and Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. skipped the debate.
Meanwhile, Commissioner George Garcia urged Congress to pass a law that will mandate the holding of presidential debates every election in the country.
“The same law will also formulate the guidelines and rules. At the same time, what are the punishment, sanctions, is it disqualification or an election offense? Just to be clear, if the Comelec will do that, that would be unconstitutional because that is legislation, but then just the same the issue on sanctions is not over yet,” he added.
The poll body earlier directed its Law Department and the Education and Information Department to determine other sanctions they may possibly imposed on debate skippers.
The Comelec has banned those who are absent in the debates from airing their e-rallies on its online platform. (PNA)